At first, I was a bit "meh" about the news. Only little globbets of new environments to explore? Half the levelling to do? That last bit rankled particularly, as it was expressed in terms of "it was taking manpower away from making the important stuff: raids" terms, to which you can have a double portion of "meh", with some whipped "meh" and a "meh" on top. I'm no raider, and marginalising levelling content in favour of raiding? It would alienate too many casual players.
That said, there are some intriguing possibilities in theses rumours. If they really did take the time to revamp Azeroth, then the way is opened for a fully progressive, phased world. And that could have all sorts of fascinating implications:
- Imagine that, after the fall of Arthas, the Plaguelands start to be reclaimed. New Lordaeron arises in the Eastern Plaguelands, while the Western Plaguelands becomes a Wintergrasp-style battle zone as the Forsaken and the humans vie for supremacy. For sub-80s, they're still Plaguelands, for post-80s, they're new content.
- Invasions could actually occur and make a difference. The Burning Legion invade as we hit level 95? We lose whole zones to invaders once we hit the appropriate levels (or finish the right quests).
And more than that, if the rumours are right, and the level cap really is going to be 85, then perhaps this is the first sign of Blizz hitting their aspiration for yearly expansions:
- 5 levels per expansion
- 2 tiers of raiding per expansion
- Less time podding around at the level cap
- Less need for gear levelling late in an expansion or at the start of the next
- A revamped old world means that an Emerald Dream expansion could be extensive but (relatively) quickly produced, because it traded of existing landscape, phased.
There are some interesting possibilities in these rumours – but I'm not sold on them due to some details I find hard to believe. (I don't think for one second that Thrall is going to be the next Guardian of Tirisfal, as it doesn't match either his or the Guardian story in any useful way. And what would Malfurion have to do with all of that?)
Ah, well. This time next week we'll know.